One of the items that got me through my destination wedding (nearly) without a hitch was my trusty wedding binder. You know what I'm talking about...we all have one, or at least have the intent to start one at some point during our engagement in an effort to stay on top of things. For this week's Picks on Paper, I'm breaking down the contents of my binder into five sections so that you can get started and finally get organized!
Whether you're planning on handing your binder over to a wedding day coordinator, a friend, family member or if you'll just be holding onto your binder yourself, it's important that your wedding binder have everything you could possibly need on your wedding day. If there's a question on whether to include something or not, do yourself a favor and put it in there. The very last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is searching through your email inbox for vendor arrival times and receipts because you forgot to print something out.
If it were possible, your wedding day binder is even more essential if you're planning on a destination wedding. Obviously, you won't be close to home and you won't be able to access much once you've left home, so be sure to take extra time to make your wedding binder very thorough. Set aside the time beforehand to start your contact sheets, to-do lists, timelines and diagrams, and don't forget to print out all of our invoices! To get started on creating your own wedding binder, get yourself a three-ring binder, lots of sheet protectors and a set of dividers. Just like you're in school again!
You can print most of the content for your binder at home, but if creating your own documents on your computer sounds too intimidating, consider looking for some free online templates to help. I found a great list of templates here on Russell and Hazel to help you get started. Or, I can help! I can help you with timelines, to-do lists, ceremony scripts, toasts and more; check out my Services page for more info!
Wedding Weekend Timeline
Your wedding timeline is a vital document in your wedding binder for both you and your wedding day helpers. You should have at least one timeline that goes through your entire trip or wedding weekend, from top to bottom. Be sure to include your bachelor/bachelorette parties, rehearsals, planning meetings, hair and nail appointments, wedding party get togethers, the farewell brunch, honeymoon send-off, important flights and arrivals, all of it should go on one page. Then, you should consider any other events that will require separate timelines, and a seperate, detailed timeline of just your wedding day is an absolute must.
Each event should go on a separate page, and each timeline should begin with the name of the event, the venue and any necessary instructions, and a list of vendors, participants and/or attendees. Then, break down each event by the hour. Include any arrival times, alloted time for set-up, start of cocktail hour and meal times, clean-up and any other important delivery, pick-up or clear-out times set by your venue or vendors. If it's easier, you might also consider inserting some of your to-do's into your timeline so that you don't forget anything in the moment, in preparation for your events or wedding.
Imagine someone who has absolutely no idea what's going on, and being able to work off of your timelines and run all of your special wedding day events smoothly. Don't assume that you'll remember something and leave a detail off of your timeline, because trust me, you get so wrapped up in being the bride that day, that there is a big chance that you'll forget to tell your Maid of Honor to be set out the favors! Write it all down!
Receipts and Invoices
As I'm sure you know, it's always important to keep a proof of purchase with you. You never know when someone will change something, mess up your order or forget it all together; and you'll need your invoices to fix any issues that may arise. When vendors deliver your orders, it's also a good idea to have your invoices on-hand so that you, or whoever is running the show for you, can make sure nothing is missing. For instance, when I got married, my Aunt took care of meeting the florist and getting all of the arrangements set up while I was in hair and makeup. Luckily, I was able to hand her my binder, which had a list of all of the arrangements, bouquets, centerpieces, bouttonieres, etc. that I had purchased, and she was able to make sure everything was there and accounted for without me being present.
Beyond that, if you're having a destination wedding, you'll need all of your receipts when you go through Customs upon arrival at the airport. Often times, Customs will choose to search bags randomly, but if you happen to get pulled aside for a bag check, you'll need that binder with a list of everything you're bringing into the country and proof of your purchases. Usually, if you let Customs know that you're having a destination wedding, they'll give you a break (especially if it's a popular destination like Hawaii or Mexico), but they may ask you to declare your stuff; what you have and how much it is all worth. You'll also need your invoices to prove that you purchased the items yourself; this is to ensure that you're not bringing all of those wedding favors into the country in order to sell them.
If you'll be traveling to another country for your wedding, be careful that the value of your wedding stuff doesn't add up to too much; if your receipts accumulate to more than $10,000, Customs won't let you through without dealing with some significant legal hassels. If you're really worried about it like I was, I think it's a good idea to split up your stuff. Give some of your favors and such to each of your bridesmaids to pack in their own suitcases, so you don't have 200 candy boxes in just one suitcase, for instance. If you do this though, make sure that you make copies of your invoices ahead of time for each person to have on-hand when they all go through Customs, as well. You'll all be going through Customs separately (even if you happen to be on the same arriving flight), and any one of your friends could be asked to show proof of purchase! Luckily, the only person that got pulled aside for a bag check when we arrived in Mexico was a friend of mine that wasn't carrying anything for me :)
To-Do Lists, Budget and Contact Sheet
At the beginning of your wedding binder, be sure to have a full list of all of your contacts, including physical addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Be sure to include friends and family who may be helping, vendors and any one else who has helped you along the way. In order to keep track of checks, money and tips, be sure to also include a copy of your wedding budget, including amounts agreed upon with each of your vendors, deposits paid and amounts due. The Knot has a great wedding budget tracker that could be helpful to you.
You'll also want to have all of your to-do lists on-hand. If you have left any projects for the last minute, or if there is anything that you are planning to leave to your friends and family to handle on your wedding day, list it here in this section. You should consider having some to-do lists for both yourself, as well as your wedding day helpers. For instance, if your best man is planning on handing out the tips to vendors, making sure your wedding transportation is covered, meeting with the caterer before the reception, etc., make sure that you create a list just for him. Here's your chance to multi-manage before your wedding day, to make sure that everyone knows what they're doing, and when to do it! It's a good idea to sort your tasks by time of completion. Be sure to print out copies for both yourself and for its intended recipient, too, so you can keep an eye on what and where all of your helpers are!
Again, imagine that you're handing your binder over to someone who has no idea what's going on on your wedding day. Consider including diagrams of:
- Ceremony set-up, including arrangement of chairs, aisle decor, the altar and any extemporaneous tables
- Florals, including who gets which bouquet, boutonniere, corsage and such
- Cocktail area set-up
- Reception layout, including a seating chart, arrangement of tables and other important areas including the placement of the guest book, cake, DJ, sweetheart table, etc.
- Arrangement of the flowers, centerpieces, place settings, favors, etc. on both the regular guests' tables and the head sweetheart table
Keep in mind that these diagrams don't have to be professional quality. Ha, you should have seen mine! I'm definitely not the artist, but I had sketches of how everything was supposed to look, and where everything was supposed to go, so that when my day-of coordinator took over on my wedding day, there was no question as to what I expected my ceremony setup and reception tables were supposed to look.
Include a section with all of your inspiration boards, magazine cut-outs, photos and swatches that you have been collecting along your wedding planning journey. You probably won't end up needing any of it on your wedding day, really, but it's good to have as many visuals as possible just in case you need to reference something to show someone how to arrange your flowers, set up centerpieces, etc. when you aren't available to do it yourself.
Access original blog post for photo sources.